A Hero Functionary of the Kremlin – a Cynic in Moldova

Roman Dobrohotov, editor-in-chief of the online portal The Insider, last year recalled an investigation by the Moscow-based Dossier Centre, where the “hacking” of correspondence from Russian special services officials revealed a mass of information about manipulation of politicians from Moscow, including members of parliaments in Georgia, Moldova, and other post-Soviet countries.

Moscow retains influence over a significant number of politicians in the post-Soviet area.

One of them is the former President of Moldova Igor Dodon, who during his presidency in 2016-2020 never went to neighbouring Ukraine but was a regular guest in Moscow even when no democratic leader was there. He even obtained approval of the Kremlin for the statement about the foreign policy.

Igor Dodon’s brother Alexandru runs a successful business in Moscow. In December 2019, Arkhpley Development, co-owned by Alexandru Dodon and son of the former Prosecutor General of Russia and now Presidential Representative for the North Caucasus Federal District Yury Chaika, acquired a plot of land in the south-east of Moscow for the construction of high-rise residential buildings.

Commenting on the deal to the TV channel Nastoyashcheye Vremia Igor Dodon, who lost the November 2020 election to Maia Sandu but has not yet handed over the presidency, said he saw nothing criminal in the situation.

According to the member of Parliament of Moldova Oazu Nantoi, President Maia Sandu (as of 24 December 2020) has inherited the corrupt system fostered by Igor Dodon (gas in exchange for loyalty to the Kremlin), including in the energy sector, where, for example, the Moscow-controlled breakaway region of Transnistria has been supplied with gas by Gazprom, de facto, for free (since it was a pro-Russian company, as it turns out, it supplied gas for free, like a pro-Russian country).

Eight billion US dollars debt has been accumulated, which is a very heavy burden for poor Moldova. With the threat of Chisinau’s geopolitical vector shifting towards the West, Gazprom certainly remembered the debt (actually, “just” 700 million debt).

The current pro-European Parliament of Moldova has an opposition bloc with the expressive name of Socialists and Communists.

Vladimir Voronin, the Communist leader who is a partner of the socialist Igor Dodon (and who met representatives of the Moscow-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Parliamentary Assembly before the elections), said that parliamentary elections in Moldova had violated the Vienna Convention of 1961, because of the direct interference of the American and the European Union’s (EU) envoys in Chisinau in the electoral process.

Igor Dodon, who lost the presidential election, has ominously stated that the result meant the end of his cherished good relations with Moscow, but he also expressed hope that Chisinau would not give in to the pressure of the US to impose sanctions on Russia.

He repeated the same sentence at the outbreak of aggression of Russia in Ukraine on 9 March: “I hope that the Moldovan authorities will be able to resist the growing pressure from their Western partners and act in the national interest”.

Unfortunately, he guessed right. In an interview with Radio Europa Liberă on 1 April, President Maia Sandu admitted that her country will strive to remain neutral and not impose sanctions on Russia together with the democratic world: “Can we leave the country today without natural gas and electricity? No, we cannot – not for our citizens and not for the 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, including 50,000 children.”

The current parliament of Moldova needed more “above-average” resolution when on 5 October 2020 it dismissed the also Igor Dodon’s “legacy” (appointed in November 2019 a few weeks before transfer of power to Maia Sandu) Prosecutor General Alexandru Stoianoglo as incapable of fighting corruption and the suspicion of corruption and overstepping his powers.

The reason for the “above average” rating is that Alexandru Stoianoglo was not only “pushed” by the former president, but also by geopolitical powers “further” east.

After losing the elections, Igor Dodon has certainly not disappeared from the horizon – he not only sits in the Parliament, but from 30 June 2021 he is also the Chairman of the Moldovan-Russian Union of Business, a public organisation. When the situation is like this, it is logical that he cannot talk about sanctions in any other way, simply by definition.

The Soviet-style functionary generally followed the typical path of the typical functionary. Before his presidency, he was a deputy in the Parliament of Moldova from 2009 to 2016 and was the Had of the Ministry of Economy and Trade from 2006 to 2009.

From 30 December 2020 to 18 December 2021, he was President of the Socialist Party of Moldova (now “elevated” to the Honorary President).

In 2017-2018, the Moldovan Constitutional Court suspended Igor Dodon from the presidency several times for refusing to approve some appointments to the Cabinet of Ministers and some laws (e.g. the Law on Combating Propaganda; propaganda comes from everywhere).

Laws and appointments had to be signed by the Speaker of the Parliament Andrian Candu, after which the presidency would go back to Igor Dodon.

This situation of affairs in general points to (and to some extent still reflects – the removal of the corrupt Prosecutor General mentioned here) the dramatic geopolitical duality of the poorest European country, which balances (often to the point of distraction) between the corrupt East and the desire to move towards the democratic West.

Igor Dodon is an advocate of the federalisation of the Russian-controlled enclave of Transnistria and advocates the termination of Moldova’s EU Association Agreement in favour of full neutrality.

In the current circumstances, it is almost suicidal for the state.

From an interview with Deutsche Welle in 2016, just after his election he said: ‘I think the country has a lot of problems that it has to solve together with Russia. I am neither pro-Russian nor pro-Western, but pro-Moldovan, a supporter of Moldovan statehood. For me, the interests of the country are the most important, and “pro-Russianism” is imposed by political opponents.”

On 16-18 January 2017, President Igor Dodon paid his first foreign visit to Moscow at the invitation of the President of Russia. He became the first President of Moldova in nine years to choose Russia as his first foreign trip.

In a meeting with Vladimir Putin, he stated that the EU Association Agreement would soon be cancelled (fortunately for Moldova, this did not happen; on the contrary, Maia Sandu, together with the leaders of Georgia and Ukraine, submitted an application for EU membership on 3 March), and he asked the Russian dictator to grant his country an observer status in the Eurasian Economic Union controlled by Moscow (which he got in 2018). He also stated that the approach of Moldova towards NATO would be stopped.

On 17-19 March of the same year, he went to Moscow again, this time for an unofficial visit, during which he and Vladimir Putin discussed Transnistria and Moldovan labour migrants in Russia.

Also on 9 May 2017, he took part in the Victory Parade in Moscow with practically all the vassals of the Russian dictator. “I received an invitation from the President of Russia Vladimir Putin to attend the celebrations in Red Square. Since presidents of Moldova have not been to Moscow on that day for 15 years, I decided to go.”

In the last weeks of his presidency, before the elections were lost, he signed a decree giving (or rather restoring) the official status of the Russian language on the territory of Moldova.

Already after the lost elections, on 24-25 December 2020, he went to Moscow again with the then Mayor of Chisinau Ion Ceban and the Head of the pro-Russian Gagauzia region (Başkan in Gagauz) Irina Vlah, to meet both representatives of the Moldovan diaspora and the leadership of the Russian Duma.

Dmitry Kozak, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Presidential Executive Office of Russia, who has significantly turned Moldovan life to the other side of the democracy (as well as the entire Russian leadership), expressed his full gratitude for the support given to Moldova in the fight against the coronavirus, the drought, and in helping Moldovan farmers to export to the Russian market in 2018-2020.

It should be recalled that after Moldova, Dmitry Kozak was “thrown” by the Kremlin to Ukraine for the same mission, and it was partly thanks to him (no doubt obediently carrying out his patron’s instructions) that we have what we have.

On 5 May 2021, Igor Dodon, already the leader of the Socialist Party, met the dictator of Belarus Aliaksandr Lukashenko, reportedly in an informal setting in the countryside.

According to the media, the two politicians have not only business relations but also friendly relations, and after the meeting Igor Dodon described the Minsk dictator as a true patriot, capable of defending the sovereignty of his country, even though the whole world knew what was going on and how. Nevertheless, he proclaimed what he proclaimed.

But the days of sitting on several ‘geopolitical chairs’ at once in a war situation are simply over; the decision has to be made here and now, even if it is painful.

As you can see, the facts do not confirm Igor Dodon’s “pro-Moldavism”, but on the contrary indicate a readiness to “hand over” his homeland to the Eastern dictator.

In a sense, Moldova is fortunate that Igor Dodon is no longer its President.

On the other hand, it has also been mentioned here that his legacy (above all, a mental one, marked by corruption, which has turned into open cynicism) will accompany the country for some time and even threaten statehood.

For example, one fragment. On 7 March, when the Russian aggression against Ukraine had been going on for a couple of weeks, the chairman of the Moldovan-Russian Union of Business and the former president of the country Igor Dodon, encouraged the country’s authorities to “seize the opportunity” (the quotation marks just beg for it) to expand exports of agricultural products from Moldova to Russia.

The only thing to do is to rethink the logistical schemes, as Moldovan produce may have to be delivered to the Russians via Belarus “because of the events in Ukraine”. However, it is definitely strategically important to supply the products to the vulnerable Russian market.

One more fragment. On 4 March, Igor Dodon called Moldova’s exit from the Moscow-led CIS a mistake, and the EU application signed by the President Maia Sandu the day before a self-promotional exercise, because the CIS accounts for the greatest share of Moldovan exports.

We can hardly add something here – it is even hard to know what is more at stake here, geopolitical, ethical blindness or banal cynicism.

It may well be that the former obviously pro-Moscow President of Moldova is a corrupt functionary and a cynic at the same time, and it does not matter that he has triple degrees in economics and management (all earned in Moldova).

It does not matter that he is the President of the Moldova Chess Federation (even since 24 September 2011).

Paradoxically (after all, he is a socialist), he works and lives according to the algorithm “nothing personal just business”. Unfortunately for Moldova, the war particularly “purifies the cynicism.

Arūnas Spraunius

 

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